Introduction to NBA Top Shot and NFT trading
by Randy Gingeleski
10 minutes to read
NBA Top Shot is futuristic sports collecting, via non-fungible tokens (NFT). I don't normally care about basketball but set out to profit.
In this post, we’ll discuss —
- What NFTs are and how you can get some
- How the marketplaces for these look today
- Why NBA Top Shot might be the most compelling NFT right now
- Shortcomings in its first-party and third-party software
- My approach to trading thus far
- Why you should join right now
It’s all about trying to turn quick profit off this bleeding-edge field. And listening to Jump Shot Dough while you do it.
🎶 Ray Allen with the jump shot (SWISH!) 🎶
How the future might look
If there’s perhaps one thing we learned last year (2020), it’s that nobody can 100% predict the future. Even credentialed “experts” in certain fields were way off about stuff — in their field.
I cannot predict the future. But we might get an increasingly compelling digital world alongside our physical one.
Perhaps just a small fraction of people will be balling out in the physical world. Many more might “make something of themselves” in the virtual world.
Think of OnlyFans today. Compare the group of men spending time with OnlyFans girls in real life versus those paying for virtual content of the same girls.
Very different — but there’s still real money in virtual goods.
Another thing is that Pokémon cards are apparently a booming market today. I’ve taken interest in this, having loved Pokémon cards growing up and now loving Pokémon plus markets.
You may see a future post on trading in them.
To seven-year-old Randy there was nothing like opening a new pack of Pokémon cards. The noise, the smell. That was my childhood.
Anyone could — and still can — participate in Pokémon card trading by buying packs. You never knew what was inside, which made it fun.
However, there are complications when introducing big money to trading cards.
You get counterfeits popping up. You might introduce a trusted middle man to “grade” cards, not only for authenticity but for a read on physical condition. You need to ship physical goods and think about insurance when they’re worth a lot.
Kids of the future might not hold their trading cards in their hands. This is where NFTs or StarStock enter the picture.
What are NFTs?
NFT is short for “non-fungible token”. These are provably scarce digital goods made possible by decentralized software.
Ethereum might be the most well-known foundation.
Imagine someone tries to replace Pokémon trading cards with JPEG picture files. Suddenly they’re easy to move around and issues with physical condition are nullified.
However, there’s very little provenance and zero copy-protection built-in.
“Provenance” being a fancy world for the history of a piece, like for fancy art.
Anyone being able to copy “rare” cards an infinite number of times means suddenly they’re not rare. We need scarcity and status in our collectibles ecosystem. Humans like and respect that.
Thus JPEG picture files are a crappy replacement for real trading cards. But NFTs can be a great replacement.
They overcome those weaknesses of JPEGs by tracking everything with software. We’ll gloss over the details but “smart contracts” enable a permanent recore of all the system’s transactions.
The tricky part is that smart contracts in their raw state are not very fun or approachable.
Someone has to make them fun and approachable by building an interface on top. This foreshadows why NBA Top Shot is on top of the NFT game right now.
What is NBA Top Shot?
To quote blog.nbatopshot.com —
High flying dunks. No look dimes. Game saving blocks. The level of drama and skill in NBA basketball is simply unmatched in the sports world. Now you can own a piece of that action.
The NBA, NBPA, and Dapper Labs have teamed up to create NBA Top Shot, a revolutionary new game in which jaw-dropping plays and unforgettable highlights become collectibles that you can own forever.
Why is it special? Top Shots are the first of their kind NBA digital collectibles. For the first time, NBA fans can participate in the digital economy of basketball, buying, selling, and trading Moments, while showcasing the authenticity and depth of their fandom.
Collectible Moments make up the core of NBA Top Shot, but Challenges, Showcases, and the mobile game (currently in development) bring those Moments to life.
NBA Top Shot is fun and approachable
“The best way to convince somebody to give you money is to tell them a compelling story… People aren’t motivated by data. They’re motivated by feelings.” - Michael Batnick
Early generation NFTs like CryptoKitties required the user to know something about decentralized software. You might’ve needed the Metamask browser extension, to be holding some cryptocurrency, and ready to transfer that.
None of that applies to NBA Top Shot. While there’s blockchain at its core, no understanding of that is required to participate.
You just go to nbatopshot.com and can start buying stuff with a normal credit card. You manage your Moments through that site — a “normal” web app.
These points make Top Shot much more approachable than some other NFT ecosystems.
On top of that, nbatopshot.com is super slick. This is a beautiful web application and clearly supported by talented frontend developers.
There are no native mobile apps for Android or iOS today. This enhances approachability in my opinion but some people might balk at that.
nbatopshot.com itself has always been performant on my phone unless there’s a pack drop or big event. Those are still high stress times on Top Shot apparently but we must recognize it’s still in beta.
Why I haven’t written a full-blown bot
There’s a lot of know-your-customer (KYC) financial stuff built into NBA Top Shot through their relationship with Dapper Labs. If they caught me doing crazy bot activity it’d result in a ban.
It would be unlikely for me to ever rejoin any Dapper Labs projects, and family members could be looked at with suspicion.
Could I write a compelling bot is not in question. Whether the trade-off makes sense is. Each person with enough technical skills will have to confront this.
Another good call-out is that Top Shot’s present setup means your money gets tied up for a while. You could make a lot of money botting then never see any of it.
Trading success draws anti-fraud team attention and emails from Dapper Labs suggest they’re building an army of those people.
My activity to date has all been manually executed on the platform.
I do fear that once Top Shot leaves beta, certain talent from sneaker and streetware botting may turn their attention here.
Perhaps we’ll discuss that in the future, either here or on my hacking blog. It’s crazy.
There is software today that gives an edge in NBA Top Shot participation. I refer to this as “third-party”.
These tools don’t violate terms of service if they’re based on the blockchain data itself. Which here is Flow.
Public web apps that I know of —
- Intangible Market
- Top Shot Explorer
- Top Shot Sniper browser extension
- Sorts a listing’s availabilities by price instead of serial number
These present NBA Top Shot marketplace data in a different way than nbatopshot.com does.
For example, say you’re trying to do market intel on me. You know my username is probably
gingeleski so you look up my Flow wallet address on Intangible Market.
You can get my account valuation there.
Then you can look into all my trade history with Cryptoslam.io.
Or Top Shot Explorer.
The third-party software scene will mature as Top Shot continues to mature.
While researching this post I even found a Twitter-and-podcast world forming —
Warning that most of that content seems based on speculation or making really basic visualizations.
Exciting times nonetheless.
Strategies for NBA Top Shot
This is still a developing economy so a lot of behavioral stuff isn’t yet solidified.
For example, lower serial numbers and serial numbers that match a player’s jersey number are supposed to be worth more than other listings. This is alluded to in Top Shot’s own explanatory content.
Is this the reality of what I’ve seen with marketplace activity? Not reliably.
The most illuminating piece of content about NBA Top Shot trading strategies written to date is this one from script.money, in my opinion.
You’ll need to translate it to English but it’s well worth it.
My approach to trading
This activity is all public. Blockchain = transparency.
About half of my spending to date has been on things I intend to hold a while then sell, i.e. series 1 anything.
The other half might be called “day trading” and quick turnarounds. You’ll form your own ideas about what’s underpriced then try to bring the market in line.
You consider the next-lowest priced listings, top sales of that same Moment so far, and average of all sales.
Is there good science to any of this? In my opinion, no.
It also seems to be worth buying packs and I have never lost money from flipping those.
Without even a firm grasp on what I’m doing, my collection is worth like $6,000 from $2,000 or so actual cash in.
Not bad — this might speak to the power of participating in the Top Shot beta.
Tracking your trading activity
In my mind, you want to track your own history in a spreadsheet with fields like this —
- Bought via pack
- Bought via marketplace
- Listed on marketplace
- Sold on marketplace
- List price plus fees
Player draft year
- This is transaction link
Flow explorer link
- Also a transaction link
- Can use the Flow explorer links that Top Shot itself presents to you
So in Excel or Sheets you might have the following set up.
Unfortunately there’s not a great way to do this yet without combining several data sources.
- You get email receipts from Dapper Labs deposits and withdrawals.
- You have your credit or debit card statements if you’re cashing in that way.
- You can look yourself up with Cryptoslam.io or Top Shot Explorer but these don’t consider marketplace fees.
- You can estimate your own account’s value at any time using Intangible Market.
- You have successful purchases and sale completions listed in NBA Top Shot’s “My Activity” area.
- You can of course tabulate things in your spreadsheet by hand as you go along.
Intangible Market does have an activity tracker where you’re supposed to copy-paste in that “My Activity” area but it doesn’t work well.
NBA Top Shot is just heating up. The marketplace participation has gone parabolic while I’ve drafted this post.
This is a very special thing and I implore you to join the beta. It’s possible that whatever you buy “cheap” today could be worth triple a month from now, without any real work on your part.
However nothing in this post is financial advice and never participate with money you can’t afford to lose.
Today NBA Top Shot isn’t that friendly to power users. Buying, selling, and tracking a lot can be slow and painful.
There doesn’t seem to be rampant botting yet. Hopefully the team is prepared for that in a way Nike and Adidas apparently never were with their online “drops”.
Hey Dapper Labs - Google reCAPTCHA is not a silver bullet. I’m available for anti-bot consulting.✌️
The future is exciting, interesting, and happy.
Long live NBA Top Shot — see you in the marketplace?.